JustCook- A Venture By Women Supplying Home-style Ready To Cook Products

JustCook is attempting to supply home-style ready-to-cooked products to people who are craving healthy, preservative-free preparations. They are turning your everyday meal into a happy meal.

For the team at Just Cook, the mission is to ensure that healthy food doesn’t become a casualty in the maddening rush of everyday life because food is not just for the body but also for the mind and the soul.

The BackStory

It was December 2019 when Khusbhu and Aakanksha, neighbours turned friends, met and were chatting about work-life balance. Khushbu is a qualified chartered accountant, while Aakanksha is a fashion designer. 

During the house party on New Year eve of 2019, the families met and started discussing the ideas and name, and that’s how JustCook was born. The idea was simple – to provide people assistance in authentic Indian meals. This is because Indian cuisine is complicated and time taking and growing nuclear families in this fast-paced life result in the cuisine losing its shine. On these lines, JustCook was incorporated on January 22, 2020, and started working on the product R&D. 

The duo started working on the product and started with Fresh Idli Dosa Batter manufacturing in home-grown style by using stone grounding. Aakanksha and Khushbu started working on the suitable composition of ingredients that goes into the manufacturing of the batter as any change in the composition impacts the taste, shelf life, and softness of the idlis. It took approximately three weeks and over 25 rounds of iteration with different types of ingredients before the duo was able to arrive at the suitable composition that was – tasteful, fresh, fluffy and soft. Those three weeks were idli and dosa testing days for the family of the duo.

Once the composition was finalised, a lab test was initiated, and in a week, the reports just elated the founders that they are good to go – from shelf life and nutritional side. It was then when they began working on the packaging, logo design and other aspects. In between, the founders supplied their society members with the batter to get first-hand feedback. 

Once the composition was finalised, a lab test was initiated, and in a week, the reports just elated the founders that they are good to go – from shelf life and nutritional side. It was then when they began working on the packaging, logo design and other aspects. In between, the founders supplied their society members with the batter to get first-hand feedback. 

A Thumbs Up 

The product was ready, packaging was in place, and machines had arrived by April 2020. But by then, Covid had hit the country. In May 2020, Covid was rising rapidly, and the country witnessed Lockdown. However, the duo thought of converting it into an opportunity considering people were stocking up food products. Starting June 2020, the founders reached out to nearby Kirana stores and started pitching the product. In a couple of weeks, the product was available in more than 15 big Kirana stores/superstores in a vicinity of 4-5 km. Gradually they started reaching out to people for feedback by standing near the stores where they saw the people buying the product. They received good feedback. 

It was August – they reached out to online eCommerce platforms and got themselves listed on that. The same month, they launched other products – Khaman Dhokla Mix, Instant Sambar Mix, and Chutneys. 

“Happy to share, in FY21, we did a run rate revenue of Rs 1-1.5 Lakh per month and were net positive. It was a moment of pride. We sold over 10,000 packets (across all products) since our launch in June 2020”, said the Founders of JustCook.

Meet The Founders

Aakanksha Satnalika – A fashion designer turned foodpreneur while scouting for the shortcut to prepare Indian cuisine. Aakanksha was working as an Assistant Fashion Designer with Shruti & Mangaaysh – a fashion label based in Pune, before starting her journey as an entrepreneur. 

 CA Khushbu Malu – A qualified chartered accountant practising in Pune turned foodpreneur when she discovered her love for simplifying food only when she demanded sophisticated Indian cuisines. It got difficult to manage with work. 

Problems They Are Trying To Solve

Everyone craves home-cooked food. However, not much time is spared for the kitchen when life beckons in the fast lane. The company seeks to solve the following problem – 

  • Rising focus on hygienic food owing to different reality check life has provided in the past few months.
  • Existing variants contain preservatives to have an extended shelf life which impacts health sooner or later.

At JustCook, the aim is simple – provide you with professional assistance to authentic Indian meal cravings, helping you rustle up 100% hassle-free and authentic Indian meals in an instant, with no chemicals, preservatives or artificial flavours. They aim to keep the process simple and traditional, just like it was done in ancient times, ensuring natural, fresh and hygienic products. 

Business Growth And Revenue Model

The company does both – B2B (through a reseller), B2C (direct to consumer). There are pros and cons of both types of models.

  • B2B Network- They work with a network of resellers – both online and offline retail stores. In essence, if you work through a network of resellers (B2B), you are there to support them (resellers) mainly through competitive pricing, reliable delivery, quality standard, and availability of stocks. This means the margins are generally low, but volumes are high.

  • B2C- They sell directly to customers around the vicinity. This is majorly done to remain in touch with the consumers, get their continuous feedback and margins better than B2B. In B2C, they sell in smaller quantities, not volume. All of these mean naturally, they need extra staffs to help with daily operations

Funding and Future Plans

The founders brought the initial capital from their savings and took help from their better half. The idea is to be self-sustaining over the next three years. 

They have raised Rs 2 million from angel investors recently who are based in Pune. They are looking to stabilise the operations, cover more expansive geography, and launch new products. The company is looking to raise additional Rs 20-25 million over the next 12 months. 

Start-up Surviving The Pandemic

Covid has been an opportunity for them. Considering everyone loves homemade food, and Lockdown was going on – on and off, it turned out to be a boon for them. They saw volumes pick up quickly from Kirana stores and also from online retailers. 

  • During Covid wave – 1

They recalled that they had delivered the order on a fine day to a superstore in Pune at 7 a.m., and Pune used to see Grocery open from 7 am – 12 pm only due to city restrictions. In a matter of 30 mins, the products were sold out as people had lined up for billing and took their product.

  • During Covid wave – 2

It was challenging for them, too, as the workforce, mainly the unskilled labour had concerns around coming to work. They revisited the drawing board and thought of taking all the measures for their labours. They got them tested and helped them with all medical support. They received numerous messages from their customers asking for the product during this wave. It was out of stock for two weeks due to operational challenges – human resources and raw material shortage. But the founders overcame that well, and it is business as usual now. Now, they see high demand for their other products – dhokla and sambhar over the past two months. 

  • Challenges outside Covid 

The founders are on a mission to ensure that healthy eating is not a casualty in the rush of everyday life. They faced considerable challenges in the male-centric entrepreneurial world. People questioned them – right from suppliers, to Kirana store owners, to eCommerce players. However, with sheer determination, they have established a name for the brand and have grown from one product to five product companies month-by-month.

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